DMSBD Tech Tips

DMSBD Race Preparation and Driving Strategy Clinic
Written by- Ian Carsten

MSX International, 1426 Pacific Drive, Auburn Hills, MI, Saturday, April 13, 2002

The Race Preparation and Driving Strategy Clinic began with Detroit Metro director, Joe Flynn, telling the drivers that contrary to popular opinion, the fastest path down the hill is almost never straight down the middle of the lane. He explained that when the car is poised on the starting gate, the car and driver together have only potential energy. But that potential energy is gradually converted to kinetic energy as the car accelerates down the hill. He recommended the nicely written two-part “Science of Driving” articles by Dr. Todd Wetzel, that currently are available on the “DerbyTech” website. Dr. Wetzel is a former derby racer who has produced these articles to help racers and their crews understand how their cars are powered and how to use this knowledge to devise driving strategy to maximize performance. Both articles were printed and distributed to all racers in attendance so they may study them at their convenience. If you were unable to attend this clinic, you may obtain a copy by going to the AASBD’s homage at, click onto Derby Tech, locate the articles under “Racing and Driving” and click onto the articles. It may take a few seconds to download since each article contains graphics. Then you may read them. If you want a copy, highlight the entire article, click on edit-copy, minimize the internet screen, start Word, open a new document, place the cursor onto the page, then click on edit-paste. Now you will have a copy you can read, save, and/or print as you choose.

* Webmasters Note: Here are direct links to the articles mentioned above...
The Science of Driving, Part 1         The Science of Driving, Part 2

Also, we had several other Derby Tech articles regarding energy and driving strategy as it relates to derby racing. They too were printed and distributed to the drivers in attendance. As an example of not driving straight down the middle of the lane, Joe mentioned that the upcoming August rally, that will be held on old Woodward in Birmingham, will probably require racers to aim their cars away from the crown of the road to minimize run times. This idea is discussed in Dr. Wetzel’s articles. Joe cautioned that a race such as this might be won or lost on the ramp depending on the strategy the driver and his/her car handler employ. In such a race, it becomes especially important to correctly assess the situation and aim the car on the ramp accordingly. Teams that excel at this may have an advantage. He noted that small cracks in the pavement or pebbles, especially near the start can kill your car’s speed and are to be avoided if possible. Planning a path that avoids such things, especially near the start, can help to get to the finish line a bit quicker. To that end it is a good idea to arrive early and walk the track so you’ll know where to steer to minimize elapsed time. Further, Joe told the drivers that it is very important that the front wheels be perfectly straight ahead when the gate drops as having them turned even slightly will impose increased rolling resistance and any speed loss at all in the first 20 feet of travel could easily make the car several feet behind the other car at the finish line. He said that one way that drivers/teams can handle this is to place a small reference mark on the steering cable. For example, a small spot of nail enamel could be placed on the cable to line up with the cutout on the body precisely when the front wheels are straight ahead. In this way, both the driver and handler have a visual indicator to verify the front wheels are straight ahead. Further, he told the drivers that they should try to set up their cars so that no steering corrections are required until the car has built up considerable speed. Then, any corrections should be made as gradually as possible to minimize speed loss due to steering maneuvers. Joe also mentioned that both the driver and handler have to devise a means of practicing until each knows exactly what has to be done. If you have practiced sufficiently, then both driver and handler should work in unison to do their jobs quickly and automatically. Such a team works quickly and efficiently and makes for formidable competition. Joe also mentioned Tex Finsterwald’s testing article, which was printed and distributed to the drivers, and the use of a calibration car to determine whether changes designed to speed up a car actually do so. With respect to making changes to enhance performance, as Tex said in the article, “If you don’t test it, you’re just guessing.”

Next, Lauren Flynn, reflecting on her derby career, advised the drivers to “stay focused on your own race—don’t let yourself be distracted by the competition”. Also, she said it is a good idea to bring a cover, or better a waterproof tarp and weights or some way of securing the tarp against wind if a sudden thunderstorm should develop. Further, she displayed some aerodynamic bubble goggles, one with lightly tinted lenses for overcast conditions and another with a much darker tinted lens to help reduce flare in bright sunlight. She said these could be obtained from

Lauren said that some racers like to have a small good luck charm in the car with them when the race. She also advised the drivers to avoid overly loose clothing, as it tends to grab more air. Additionally, she recommended the racers wear light, flexible footwear such as ballet slippers or water shoes as they make it much easier to get in and out of the cramped cockpit of a derby car. She said it is a big mistake to wear large, heavy soled shoes. She also advised starting a stretching regimen to gain flexibility and increase range of motion as it helps a great deal in getting into a nice low racing position to lower center of mass and reduce air drag.

Jim Scotti suggested developing and using a standard routine involving a mental checklist of things that must be done in a particular order to ensure that all necessary preparations have been made with the car and driver at the top of the track. Then Theresa Young told the drivers that they shouldn’t get upset if something goes wrong. Also, she said it helps to keep a positive attitude; “It’s all about beating the timer—not the opponent.” She advised the drivers to “Be consistent, tuck low, and do your best—always.” Lauren added that it is important not to be intimidated by other drivers or how fancy their car looks. Mr. Scotti commented, “Attitude is everything. One phase doesn’t determine the result.”

Next, Joe announced that since the May 18 and 19-spring rally is rapidly approaching, we need all applications by Thursday, May 16, 2002. Further, for our Saturday, June 22, 2002 local derby, whose winners are eligible to race in the national championships at Akron on June 27, all cars must be submitted for mandatory inspection on Saturday, June 8, 2002 here at MSX in Auburn Hills at the address given in the heading of this article. The racers whose cars pass inspection successfully will at that time be officially registered for the June 22 derby. He also said there would be a rookie race on June 22 for drivers who are not old enough to qualify for the Akron race this year. Then he mentioned that with DADA’s sponsorship, the August 10 and 11 rally in Birmingham should provide lots of media coverage, which he feels can help Detroit Metro grow by recruiting new racers and sponsors. Also, he mentioned there might be a condensed one-day latecomer’s clinic for racers who may not have been able to attend the regular clinic series if demand warrants. Joe also said if any teams have any further questions, they should contact him by e-mail or telephone. He concluded by saying that all the drivers that participated in the clinics will receive Detroit Metro T-shirts in recognition. Then the racers broke up into independent work groups to continue preparations to their cars and get technical questions clarified.

Theresa Young held a drawing for all drivers in attendance. This week’s winners and their prizes were:

  1. Devin Gullet                ‘01 Hot Wheels #2, Rusty Wallace Key Chain

  2. Justyn O’Green           ’40 Ford Coupe, Spartans Decal

  3. Tori Balough                Bear in Basket, Hot Wheels Playing Cards

  4. Kyle Scotti                  Spartans Decal, #6 Mark Martin Decal

  5. Sally Guimond             Rawlings Champ Basketball, Us Flag Kite

  6. Kelsea Klien                Original Frisbee, Sea Animals Set

  7. Josh Barkus                 Rawlings Baseball, Wading Pool

  8. Trevor Schick               Nommader What, Lobomotive Hot Wheels

  9. Tillie Berg                    Original Frisbee, Corvette SR2

  10. Jeffery Lukcas             Chrysler Thunderbolt

  11. Justin David                #6 Mark Martin Decal

  12. Christina David            Detroit Broach Cap, Detroit Broach Cap

This Concludes the DMSBD Car Building Clinics for 2002.

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